Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why is General Motors exiting India .. ?

General Motors , over a century of operations around the world ..
After India's attraction as a manufacturing hub for some of the global popular and mid-range auto majors like Ford, GM, VW, Toyota, Renault, Hyundai, Suzuki, Skoda, Fiat, Volvo, BMW, Audi, Mercedes etc, for the first time we find GM is exiting India. As a management case study it makes great sense as to what went wrong with GM's India operations at Taloja, Maharashtra plant and how they could have salvaged it.

US takes pride in General Motors as the second great automobile company to come out of US in 1908 in the last century. One of its greatest CEOs Alfred P. Sloan already has the MIT Institute of Management named after this great leader. It is a great shock to the rest of the world and a great lesson for other automobile companies from around the world who already have operations in India or are planning to open up new ones to understand what went wrong with GM India strategies ? GM India now makes cars only for the Latin American market. 

The major reasons for GM India operations failure as has been outlined after a research by Prof. Vijay Govindarajan of Tuck School of Business are five in number (HBR, June 2017 issue).

After a thorough analysis of the reasons of the inglorious exit, we find the withdrawal of GM from India is due to the failure in two fronts, leadership and strategy.

Failure in Leadership 
1. Frequent change of Indian leadership - 9 CEOs have come and gone in 21 years heading the India operations, though the latest has been around for 14 years. The long term impact of frequent change made the situation within the country very fluid and no leader had a vision and long term plan for the company in India, GM having already exited from India two times in the past.
2. Local leaders never got autonomy to take independent decisions - Indian operations being large and catering to a billion plus population needs to have lot of autonomy content inbuilt, Indian CEO cannot be interacting with Global CEO and with Global HQ for each and every action to be taken to spearhead Indian day to day operations. This lack of autonomy to Indian CEO affected GM India operations and dented it's image much. 
Failure in planning strategies 
1. Indian operations can be run only with India specific strategies -  India being a global player and set to lead global economy by 2050 AD, cannot be expected to follow strategies suited for other economies. India is by nature very cost conscious and Indian customers are some of the greatest cost bargainers and at the same time demand unparalleled quality in the products, unlike other global customers. Global Companies need to look at such stringent cost and quality constraints as opportunities for growth and global leadership. General Motors failed to understand this truth in India. (the recent example of Vodafone running scared of their Indian telecom operations finally having to team up with Birla's Idea telecom is an example to quote) Suzuki and Hyundai, global auto leaders have suited their operations to manufacture sub compact cars for the middle class customers and have reaped intense benefit, together they control about 65% of Indian market.
2. Indian strategy has to be focused on volumes and scale, not just on expensive high end cars - Indian customers are very diligent when it comes to spending money on cars. They study the market carefully, make personal observations and ask their friends and relatives many times before finalising on a high value purchase - a societal norm too. Indian customers are extremely obsessed with value for money and do not allow themselves to be taken for a ride by the automobile companies. Companies that have a good dealership and maintenance chain across the country frequently do succeed in their domestic operations. Maruti, Hyundai, Tata etc have great maintenance network across the country.
3. Lack of a long term strategy - a long term strategy is much needed for success in Indian markets. India having opened to almost all auto-majors of the world now is a great ground for improving product competitiveness. It also holds promise to be the world's largest automobile market very soon especially with the advent of electric cars. Short term myopic strategies rarely succeed and fail in India because Indian customers are some of the smartest in the world. Despite initial setbacks, a company that focuses on long term vision only can hold itself and withstand intense competition from other global competitive players operating within the country.

This GM India withdrawal case should be an eye opener not only in the automobile sector but in the FMCG sector too. Indian cost consciousness already is making waves in the high-tech space technology and atomic energy market, India leading over the rest of the world in high-quality cost consciousness.

India once again proves to the world, that though it outwardly appears to be a castaway, it is high time countries and companies around the world started taking it seriously, if it is to stay in business in the country and plan for its future survival in the world..


Ref : 1. Govindarajan, Vijay and Gunjan Bagla, What US CEOs can learn from GM's India failure, HBR, June '17. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sadhguru on why we need to save our rivers

Sadhguru - Jaggi Vasudev ..
Great video.

Great civilizations around the world have thrived and survived on rivers. The Egyptian civilization around the river Nile, Mesopotamia civilization around the Euphrates Tigris, Indus Valley civilization around the river Indus, Chinese civilization around the river YangTseKiang etc.. 

Human civilization all over the globe over the past 10,000+ years have been interwoven with rivers, thriving on river banks .. 

Indian rivers in a single generation have from being perennial, become seasonal .. shocking ..

We need to save our rivers for survival of mankind on planet earth .. !!


Will Indian politicians allow the US game plan to disrupt Asia ?

Has the Indian political establishment fallen to CIA designs and plans to disrupt Asian economic growth ? Yes, there are all indicators for that ..

By pitting India against China, US intelligence has managed to push both countries not to worry about their economic growth, and instead concentrate on the nationalistic pitch, gain cheap publicity for the leaders to find an excuse to fight and distract from productive growth. 

Indian political leaders have clearly fallen to these destructive plans, looked outside their economic growth and derailed the economy in the long run.

The present Indian PM instead of playing to the gallery should be smart enough to see through this US game to continue their economic and political domination of the world. The former Indian PM was intelligent and smart enough to understand this, understood the priorities and acted accordingly. 

Present Indian PM Modi should realise that it is quite easy to ruin the economy, but it is very difficult to build it to greater glory and prosperity.. 👍👍


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Kochi metro sustainability initiatives ..

For the first time in the world - Each of the stations on Kochi metro are Platinum certified GREEN BUILDINGS , the highest ratings for sustainable buildings across the world granted by the Indian Green Buildings Council. 
E Sreedharan's contribution to Kochi metro has been phenomenal ..

This recognition is besides the already existing reputation for Kochi metro as
1. the most advanced metro in terms of signalling systems, connectivity etc 
2. the cheapest one in the country (at Rs 220 crore/km compared to Rs 337.3 crore per km for Bangalore Namma Metro, a clean Rs 107.3 crore more per kilometre !!) and  
3. the fastest executed metro in the country in just three and a half years compared to Bengaluru Namma metrro which has been struggling to cover an additional . 
To cover phase I of Bengaluru Namma metro (43 km) which is 60% more than Kochi Metro distance of 26 km, Bengaluru Namma metro has incurred INR 13,800 crores over Kochi's INR 5200 crores, a clean 150 % more. Inefficiency or corruption whatever it be, this is shocking..

When we talk of green buildings, we have to say that all the Kochi metro stations are built using locally available materials ensuring least transportation of building materials and storage, least disrupting natural streams and wetlands, ensuring best use of natural lighting eliminating expensive unnecessary indoor lighting,  best use of natural ventilation,  maximum use of renewable energy - almost 25% is solar energy and recycling of water, ensuring very healthy places to gather and travel to. 
The surprise never ends ! 👍

LED lighting across all stations, water efficient toilet fittings and rainwater harvesting in stations makes the Kochi Metro a greatly renewable energy type of ecosystem, recycling the precious resource of water, unheard of anywhere in the world ! 👍 Even every fourth pillar of the metro is an enviable hanging green garden full of flowers and rejuvenating the environment with Oxygen.

In short, the Kochi metro has the lowest Carbon footprint among all the 200 metros of the world !! 🙏, making Kochi leaping towards being recognised as the green capital of the world, with the world's first and only 100% solar energy powered and energy neutral International airport in the world, competing along with the Kochi Metro.


Friday, June 09, 2017

Byju's coaching classes.

Turning a coaching business to a mammoth online education venture worth $600 million in 2017, generating revenues of Rs. 260 crores, headquartered in Bengaluru in just 10 years from 2007 is a mammoth task.

Especially the organisation when it gets featured as a Harvard case it raises many an eyebrow. It is just great to read how this Malayalam-medium student from Azhikode, Kannur, Kerala is leading Byju's to be  India's first edu-based unicorn ..

Running the organisation, exhibiting great leadership
Byju's has already been valued at $600 million and set to be India's first edu-tech unicorn (>$ 1 billion valuation), It has already been financed by venture capitalists Sequoia Capital and Sofina, Chan Zuckerberg initiative and so on.

Byju, an Engineer by profession was already giving coaching to his roommates on how to crack the Indian Institutes of Management Common Admission Test, already having cracked it twice with 99.9 percentile, he loved the teaching profession. Both his parents are teachers.

Even though Byju's started initially as a classroom coaching class, it spread to classes in huge two thousand seater halls and later to recorded sessions in other cities of India, to Tab based teaching and from 2015, it has moved to Smartphone app based teaching (Android and iOS based) .. ..

Today Byjus caters to a whole lot of competitive entrance exams in the country starting from UPSC exams, IIM entrance exam CAT, IIT JEE, NEET for medical entrance, GMAT management aptitude exams for foreign Management Institutes, +1 and +2 preparations..

We wish this largest great edu-tech venture which is exploiting the power of technology to scale up in volume and to grow large.

Here is a very short management casestudy prepared on the challenges faced by Byju's at scaling up, how to overcome them and look out for innovative ways to make the learning ecosystem bright and colourful all over the world... May be useful to business school students to understand the challenges faced by educational startups from any part of the world and why they find it difficult to scale up.


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

India's first carbon-neutral village - Meenangaadi village ..

When the all-polluting US and the Western world is struggling to live up to their  promises to build a greener world, Meenangaadi village in Wayanad district in Kerala has already become the first carbon-neutral village in India .. 

With the active cooperation of the public and the local administrators, they are becoming a model to the whole world !!

Yoga - India's contribution to the world !!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Brilliant Rifath and a mediocre Indian education system.

The smartest kid in India as accepted by the world and developer of the 64 g KALAMSAT, would not even get a chance to study with the less intelligent dumbos in IITs and other Engg. colleges, but would go with a heavy scholarship to MIT.

What a messed up, screwed up and useless higher education system we have ! To make more idiots !!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A commentary on Indo-China relations and Dhola-Sadiya bridge ..

Will India's Dhola-Sadiya bridge fuel peace or confrontation between India and China ?

India's 9.15 km longest Dhola-Sadiya bridge acros the Lohit river, a tributary of the mighty Bhramaputra river, from Dhola in Assam to Sadiya in Arunachal Pradesh, was inaugurated by the Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi during the last week of January 2017. The bridge building has caused some displeasure in China. 

Even though construction started in 2010 it took 7 long years to complete after spending more than two thousand crores of rupees, though the initial estimate was about one third that amount. Besides poor project management skills exhibited on the bridge construction, it is also poised to ruffle a few feathers in the political tussle between India and China.   

Looking from the Indian standpoint, the issue is different as when looking from the Chinese viewpoint. Arunachal Pradesh has been a disputed territory between India and China for the past seventy years ever since the British left India. We call Arunachal Pradesh as an integral part of India, the Chinese call it Eastern Tibet, and that is where the dispute still exists.

China does not show any consideration or respect to global opinion while expanding its territorial claims in the South China sea. Despite global protests, China unilaterally bulldozed all protests and built airstrips on the Spratley Islands and in slowly arming it with fighter planes and naval ships. 

Nobody has any objection to China improving its physical infrastructure within its borders neighbouring India. But this has caused natural discomfort on the Indian side, whether this is going to be a repeat of the 1962 incident when despite pretensions of comraderie and friendship, slogans of Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai between Indian and China, it invaded parts of India and annexed it to its side.
China with a known history of looking only at personal interests over its neighbours, thus is a great threat to global peace and harmony. Throughout history if we look carefully, except for the past 300 years China has never had made a larger contribution than India to humanity in terms of culture, economic growth and the like.

China on the other hand behind India in economic and cultural growth, even in terms of education, had a growth of its economy from 1700 AD to 1820, when it became larger than India and then started fading out. 

Under the single party Communist rule, China has had great progress economically making it the largest and most powerful economy of the world. But is it long lived ? Can the interests and aspirations of its citizens for freedom of speech and action be subjugated for long ? It is not long time before its citizens would rebel against the state and try to reaffirm their personal freedom and liberties.

The other view point in this episode, is one whether US is playing behind the scenes to keep India and China apart, they do not have an economic or military alliance that can challenge US hegemony over the world. 

If there is a repeat dispute between India and China over Arunachal Pradesh in the near future, the world can take it for granted that US will keep off the dispute and let the two super powers of the world fight it out between themselves. India and China being aware of this ditching efforts by US, is playing safe. India's foreign policy strategy has been despite US high handed behaviour across the world. 

The next two years for the world and especially for India would be very crucial in that there would be a reassessment of global power equations

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Terrestrial transportation - How fast are todays trains ?

In the mass public terrestrial transport systems of the world, we find three technologies are dominating.

The first, TGV from France runs on electric drives dominated by Alstom from France, Magnetic levitation (Maglev) technology pioneered by the Germans, powering the Transrapid Monorail in Germany and Shanghai airport metro. The third is the futuristic Hyperloop from Elon Musk which they claim is fastest at app 1000 kmph.

Shanghai Maglev
Lets get to know a brief about these three technologies.

The French Train a' Grand Vitesse (TGV) is no doubt, the fastest in the world presently having clocked 574.8 kmph in a 2007 run (click here for video).

The German Maglev trains working on Maglev technology (click here for a primer on maglev technology) runs the fastest Maglev from city of Shanghai to Pudong Airport , 17 miles which it covers in 7 minutes (click here for the video..)

Hyperloop technology from Elon Musk can beat all this (still in design stage and futuristic) .. (click here for the technology video). My blog on Hyperloop detailing the business aspects and technology, (click here for the blogpost). Instead of spending mpney on R&D developing their own proprietary technology, Hyperloop technologies conducts global competition inviting technological innovations using hyperloop, thereby limiting the time to develop and implement innovative, fast, energy efficient solutions that could take care of global transportation problems in the future.

Do we see the next futuristic technology with the advent of fuel cells, Lithium ion batteries, solar energy proliferation in the coming years ??

India is slowly getting on the fast train track, but with conventional electric locomotives on advanced tracks set up on the Mumbai Goa Konkan rail route. India's fastest train Tejas now runs at 200 kmph between CST Mumbai and Karmali Goa. 


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

An IAF Officer's passion for agriculture ..

S. Parameshwaran was my  classmate at the College of Engineering, Trivandrum during Mechanical Engineering under-graduation days. He also hails from near my hometown of Chennithala, in Alleppey district of Kerala, a small state in the southern tip of India, from a place called Mannar. 

Parameshwaran, fit as a fiddle, went on to join the Indian Air Force after engineering and retired from IAF as a Wing commander way back in early 2010 after 26 years of meritorious service. After seeing his only daughter getting married off and going with her husband and a short stint in Bangalore, resettling back in Mannaar was very boring for Parameshwaran and his wife. But he hit upon this brilliant idea of going back to nature and taking up agriculture.

In his 2 acre land in Mannaar he started cultivating vegetables as a hobby initially around 2015. Even though the first year was a great loss, he did not give up. Continuing from the second year he has been able to break it even. Even though he gets a good pension from the IAF, the simple pleasure of being able to reduce the carbon footprint and giving back to the society and nature through a green way of living, causing very less destruction to the surroundings and the habitat, has given much more satisfaction to Parameshwaran than the earnings he makes from agriculture.

Parameshwaran leads a very systematic disciplined life, getting up daily at 4.30 AM and working in his field till 7.30 AM. After breakfast and rest, he is back in action this time taking and selling the farm produce in the local farm department store in Chennithala. The high quality education and experience Parameshwaran has gathered over two and a half decades in the Indian Air Force has got him looking at improving the productivity of the farming operation with reduced inputs, maximizing the outputs with practically nil application of chemical fertilizers.

Interacting and taking help from agricultural experts Paramu has been able to make use of the high-tech drip irrigation concepts to conserve water during summer season. His interactions with the farming department officials have given him an idea of what crops to cultivate, in what quantities and when.

In short Parameshwaran through his life is giving a great example of how agriculture can be pursued to give back meaning to our life and existence on this planet. How we can live with low carbon footprints and give back to nature even maybe in very small measure, but a definite quantity, be it either in reduced carbon footprints, or giving a chance to the bees, the butterflies and the birds to live on this planet for a few years more.

In our excessive quest for showing off our materialistic gains and wealth, we ignore mother nature and the gifts she has bestowed on us. Let us try to give back to mother nature in whatever small way it is possible for us.

Hats off to Parameshwaran for taking the bold, courageous and generous step of being one with nature and giving back to nature. He has already completed a TV show for a US TV channel, to be aired soon and is a favourite spot for field visits for the future responsible citizens of our country, kids from schools near and far. The motivation he has created among his old classmates is also high, that some of them are planning to intern with him, including myself, and learn the simple joys of agriculture and giving back to society in more deeper and meaningful ways.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Kochi Metro, another living example of Sridharan magic ....

We have heard of E Sridharan IES, doing wonders starting with the Pamban bridge, Calcutta Metro, Konkan Railway and the world class Delhi Metro.
Metro stalwarts in the country ..

After retiring from Govt of India at the very respectable age of 79, Sridharan was approached by the Chief Minister of Kerala Oommen Chandy to lead the Kochi Metro. Sreedharan has been associated with the Kochi Metro authorities and Govt of Kerala representatives besides the political representatives for the past four years. Sridharan and Elias George MD of Kochi Metro have done wonders to get the cheapest, most modern and fastest Metro execution in India.

Of the initially planned 25.65 km stretch from Aluva in the North of Kochi city to Petta in the South as part of the first phase, 10 kms stretching from Aluva to Palarivattom will start running in the next three weeks. The trial runs have been successfully completed. Anytime the commercial running for the public can start after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi finds time to come to Kochi for the inauguration in the next two weeks. Meanwhile all other work of sprucing up the stations etc is going on in full swing.

Technical Features :  
Construction Methodology: Elevated viaduct carried over pre-stressed concrete ‘U/I’ shaped girders with pile / open foundations
Rolling Stock: 2.9 m wide modern rolling stock with stainless steel body, standard gauge axle load of 15 tonnes
Voltage: 750 V DC
Power Supply Source: 110Kv AC
Power Collection: Third Rail Bottom Collection
System: Light Metro System
Type of Signalling: Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) with ATO & ATP
Telecommunication: Integrated system with Fibre Optic cables, SCADA, Train radio, PA system etc                        (data from Railway
The estimated completion cost of the Metro First Phase (also called Komet or K-3C) from Aluva to Pettah covering 22 stations would cost about INR 5200 crores (app $900 million). Work is also started to extend the northern station from Aluva to the Kochi International airport in Nedumbassery to effect a convenient metro link from the airport right upto Pettah.

Route map of Kochi metro
Alstom of France with its factory at Sri City Andhra Pradesh has been given the $107 million contract to supply most modern 3 bogie, 65 m long and 2.9 metre wide, 25 metropolis train sets to Kochi metro.

The Delhi Metro now runs for 213 kms covering 160 stations from the intial 7 kms stretch for which work started on 24 December 2002, serves almost 26.6 lakh passengers daily and has since inception carried almost 1.24 billion passengers.

The Kochi metro on completion of the first phase will run for 25.6 kms. In future, we can imagine the development this Mass Rapid Transit System can bring to Kochi and help in its expansion to global standards, even surpassing other Indian and global cities. Having the reputation for the cheapest and most advanced metro project stations in the country, we hope the Kochi Metro will climb greater heights and repute over the years.

Sridharan with former CM of Kerala Oommen Chandy at Aluva, 2015 pic.
Like the Kochi International airport 5 kms away from Aluva in Nedumbassery, is the first and only insolated (fully solar energy powered) international airport in the world, we hope the Kochi Metro will carve a name for itself in terms of technical specifications, energy efficiency and effectiveness, comfort to people and customer friendliness in the country and the world in the coming days.

There is a great lesson in this to learn for the Government of Karnataka executing  Bangalore Namma Metro.

The basic lessons from the Kochi Metro are the following :
1. Get the required funding and a very experienced consultant to oversee the Project 
2. Plan for the most modern technology and design for the metro, network with all stakeholders 
3. Get a Project Management team strong in engineering expertise and project management skills 
4. Effect a smooth and fast implementation on sound Project Management skills 
5. Keep all levels politicians away during the project execution stage, to avoid favouritism and allegations of corruption 
6. Be straightforward and frank in all dealings with all stake holders 
7. Always work with the bigger picture of planned city development, passenger safety, low costs and comfort in mind.
8. Have great communication  with all stakehoiders and between employees at all stages right from planing to final handing over and running. 
A global wonder, a 2 km bridge reconstructed in just 45 days..
Presently Sridharan is also appointed to the United Nations Organisation, overlooking Mass Rapid Transit Systems in Asia, Africa and Latin America. He has been invited to serve in the United Nations High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport for a period of three years from 2015. (HLAG-ST).  Sridharan accepted this 3 year assignment to serve the United Nations at the ripe age of 82 years. !!

The country now awaits the Central Govt to start procedures to confer its highest National Civilian Honour of "Bharat Ratna" on E Sridharan !! He is already a Kohinoor to Indians. Bharat Ratna is not going !

In 1964, after a major cyclone hit the 2 km long, (1914 constructed), Pamban bridge, connecting Indian mainland in Southern tip to Rameshwaram, washing it off, Sridharan inspite of the Army wanting to get it reconstructed in a very short time of 6 months, *got it back and running in just 45 days time* .. 🙏🙏. Sridharan is very proud of this and often quotes this as one of his best achievements ever !!, when he was just 31 years of age and a bachelor !!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Indian boy designs world's smallest satellite ..

Looks like our youngsters are getting ready to rewrite rules of society and science .. They are focused, with a definite purpose and are getting to aim at the stars. The great solace is they are not looking for government to handhold them and train them in the sloppy government way of doing things slowly. They are raring to go and reach the stars. Here I am introducing a young, I mean 18 year old boy from Pallapatti town in Tamil Nadu, India.

Dr Kalam could not be any happier than this ..
18 year old Rifath Sharook from Pallapatti village in Tamil Nadu, India has designed the world's smallest satellite ever, a 64 cu. cm (4 cm side), weighing 64 gram, made of Carbon fibre material and 3D-printed for a sub-orbital life of just 12 minutes after being launched aboard  NASA rocket from Wallop's island on June 21, 2017.

Dr. Abdul Kalam could not have been given any greater tribute than this !! His efforts of simplifying and popularising science and technology in every nook and corner of the country irrespective of age, caste and religion could not have found a greater reward than through the Kalamsat - a tribute from an 18 year old boy from rural India ..

No Nobel Prize or other global recognition would have been more fitting for Dr Kalam, the rural India's scientific saviour, the person who brought the whole of India to the forefront in Science and Technology and inspired them to do world-beating feats than this greatest feat ....

We have never heard of a Kennedysat or Breshnevsat, but here comes a Kalamsat !!
It is definitely a great tribute from a village student to one of the greatest and humble Indian scientists ever, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Rifath Sharook may not be a high scoring student in his school, but sent a very strong message to the world that education is just a tool for getting exposed to the basics, rest all is with our mind applying what we have learned !! Dr Kalam's dream is going to be realised very soon !! - Karthi, HCL, Bangalore, 
The perfect tribute to India's greatest scientist
On the one hand, the major countries of the world, with Russia and US leading including India, are trying to launch heavier and heavier satellites and we find a brilliant young boy from India shocking the world with his tiny satellites ...

Read the news item here .. I am sure ISRO and it's 16,000 + scientists and technologists would learn some hard and humbling lessons from this exercise. It is not just high marks and academic brilliance that can help an organisation, but it is the finesse and flair of mind to be able to use these ideas through scientific principles for benefit of mankind and ultimate use to society, that will make the biggest difference..

Let this humbling experience help us to firm up our resolve to use the country's scientific and technological expertise to make a BETTER SUSTAINABLE WORLD, not just a richer, healthier and stronger country (as other advanced countries brazenly, outrageously pursue and unrepentently propagate .. )
It was a NASA competition to send the lightest satellite in the world and this boy won it..  ISRO may now  think of going to villages schools to recruit brains .. real talent is in villages ! 😊🙏

Monday, May 15, 2017

Visit to Mango orchard in Begur Bangalore..

It was a great experience yesterday, 14 May2017, to visit a Mango orchard and buy 23 KGS of very pure organic mangoes (malgoa) which had been plucked and stocked there.. Also got the opportunity to buy 4 jackfruits of the honey variety (thein varikka), the most exotic and tastiest of all jackfruits in the world ..


Saturday, May 13, 2017

The fantastic story of the revival of Kuttamperoor river in Kerala, INDIA ..

Kuttanperoor river, before revival
On the left is the image of the Kuttanperoor river in Alleppey district of Kerala just two years ago. For the past two months 30,000 people of the locality around this river  have worked for the revival of the river and on the right bottom, you can witness what a change societal action has brought forth.

Kuttamperoor is a river flowing through the Budhanur village in Alleppey district of Kerala through Chennithala, Mavelikara, Alleppey district in Kerala, India.. This river had lot of wild growth and was un-navigable. The absense of water also led to the wells in the surrounding areas going dry as the reservoir collecting the water was dry.

Kuttanperoor river after revial, May 2017.
Click here for the video of the revival of the Kuttanperoor river ..

After about 10 years of death of the river miraculously the river has been brought back to life. The people of the area under the leadership of the local MLA G Sudhakaran, took up the initiative involving 700 people who worked for 30,000 labour days cleaned the weeds and wild vegetation around the river and got the 12 kilometre river back to navigable status and to healthy life.

The people taking part in the revival process ..
It is a great and noble effort from the people of Budhanur and it will be remembered in all of history. It could also be a model for the whole country to follow. (My hometown Chennithala in Kerala is also near to this river)

When rivers go dry in different parts of the country, this example shows how as a cooperative effort with the involvement of the people can bring the life line of human life, rivers to life.

The people of Budhanur deserve to be awarded with a great honourable prize and recognition at the national level which will motivate people in the Southern states of India to look after their rivers. It will also help the people around Ganga to think hard on how Ganga could be saved from permanent and irreversible death.

The political leadership from G Sudhakaran needs to be really complimented for the great environmental revival of a river as without political support this project would not have got initiated and would not have succeeded the way it has.

The success of the project brings so much of contentment in the heart of each Malayali and each Indian as this is the harbinger of the good news that all the rivers running though different states can also be likewise revived. This also helps to raise the quality of the life of the people around these rivers to the old pristine and green ways.

This one project brings so much of promise to the country that we can revive all our rivers and bring them back to life and along with these rivers communities and societies too..

Let us all be party to this great initiative in our country. (photo credits to Mathrunbhumi, Indian Express and The Hindu)


Friday, May 05, 2017

How these 13 year olds from Kurumbapetty, Trichy govt school innovated !!

Explaining and giving meat to the idea 
It was a matter of great pride for these four 13 year olds from Kurumbapetthy Govt school, Trichy when they innovated using old 20 litre plastic bottles into urinals to solve a problem they faced daily.

Click here for the thebetterindian newsitem ..

The urinals at their school were ill equipped and did not have effective urine collection mechanisms. The spilled urine resulted in diseases, fever, lost classes, classroom stench and so on. The innovative solution proposed by the students solved their school urinal stench problem. This is also an effective method by which low-cost solutions have been resorted by the affected parties to innovate and come up with superior, long lasting and durable solutions.
The design and brainstorming phase ..

This idea though simple is an example of group innovation, very effective and strong in terms of teaching the basics of how to innovate ..

1. helps to solve the urine stench problem in their school in a very cost effective manner
2. finds effective use of old and damaged 20 litre plastic water bottles which otherwise would have been a headache for safe disposal
3. helps the village and the state to find effective ways to re-use plastic 20 litre bottles,
The final implementation ..
4. prolongs the life cycle of plastic through re-use before final safe disposal

This is a great example of how even small problems for adults, (big problems for children) causing health issues and poor hygienic conditions inside the classroom could be solved very effectively by children.

A step-wise procedure to look at social / societal innovation could be this :
The jubilant and successful team members
1. an open mind to identify problems
2. willingness to solve societal problems
3. enthusiastic mind to come up with multiple alternatives to solve the problem
4. practical mind to choose the best alternative
5. implement the best solution by evaluating the potential outcome in terms of the end results
a. societal benefits
b. low cost alternatives and
6. evaluating the future potential in terms of maintenance costs and life of product 

If we set up a mechanism to unleash the creativity of young minds, the creative and low-cost solutions to common day problems could be great !!

How can an innovative mindset be inculcated among the people of the country to leverage both on creativity of young minds and experience and wisdom of elderly minds to arrive at effective and low-cost solutions to societal problems ?

george.. (pic courtesy

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

North Korea, a few weeks more ..

An example of how insanity can
run through families ..
The world is looking forward to find out how many weeks more this country in North East Asia would exist on global maps .. With full support from China, the end may not happen that soon..

China needs and knows very well that a rogue North Korean (NK) will help to keep South Korea (SK) and Japan in check. Without NK, China would cease to be an Asia power. The day China stops patronizing NK, the country would cease to exist. So it is mutually beneficial for China and NK, that NK continues its annoying, abominable, unacceptable and detestable behaviour and suppression of democracy and people's liberties in NK.

Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un,  3 generations
Pic courtesy CNN
The plight of 25 million people in NK is very pitiable !! If a war erupts, how many of them would be alive, just because of an insane person, for no fault of the common people.

The North Korea example of dictatorship is a good case study of how delusional and unsound mind of autocratic leaders can lead to great suffering, hardship, misery and mental stress of the people.

China deciding to recall its citizens in NK gives some pointers of what's in store for the next two weeks or is it just China's ploy to make the world believe that it is very serious about controlling its rogue and perverse partner ..

A country with GDP of just $60 billion at PPP and 0.03 percent (.0003) of global GDP, is trying to bully, domineer and browbeat an economy 350x its size !

Is NK too eager to get wiped out and erased from global maps  ?

The NK atomic sites being situated closer to the  Chinese borders is a great threat for China too, as in case of an attack by US or NATO on North Korea, not only will NK be affected, all nearby regions, even crossing the border into China will also get affected .. China would be the last country interested to find its territory getting subjected to dangerous radiation ..


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Why family businesses need to be ever more vigilant ..

In a study of 25,000 publicly listed companies in US from 1950-2009, on an average, they did not last for more than 15 years.

About 30% of family businesses make it through the second generation, 10-15% through the third and 3-5% through the fourth ..

Family owned businesses thus are more promising in the long run over public companies.

The two big traps family businesses often confront are

1. All family members can be accommodated - insist that family members will have tp earn their place in the family business by their education and experience
2. The business cannot grow as fast as the families - if there are enough competent people the business can be scaled up into different areas to accommodate competent people

Reference link :
Link 1  -,  Avoid the traps that can destroy family business, George Stalk Jr, HBR, Jan 2012.

Link 2  - Signs you are losing control of your family business, Josh Baron et al, HBR, April, 2017

Link 3  Why  the 20 th century belongs to family businesses, Josh Baron, HBR, March 2016.

Managing change in family run businesses ..

As per data from reliable sources listed below, public professionally run companies in US have an average life of only 15 years (50% wind up in 15 years) while we find 30% of all family run businesses transitioning successfully into the second generation, 10-15% into the third generation, 3-5 % into the fourth generation, creating value for the customer and wealth for the country in the long run. Family run businesses are therefore a vital component of any country's economy as the example of Walmart, Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW and Berkshire Hathway and many others remind us.  (Refer : Baron, Josh, "Why 20th century will belong to family businesses, Harvard Business Review, March, 2016)

One of the best definitions of family business I have ever come across is this -
A family business is a commercial organization in which decision-making is influenced by multiple generations of a family—related by blood or marriage. They are closely identified with the firm through leadership or ownership - wikipedia
Here is Forbes link to the top 25 family businesses of the world, led by Walmart, Volkswagen and Berkshire Hathway ..

The biggest family business on planet earth, Walmart ..
As per a report from, of the top 20 businesses in India, 15 are family run businesses and contribute 26 lakh crores to the Indian economy. The exceptions are HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Infosys, L&T and Axis Bank.

Family run businesses have been there from time immemorial when men settled and lived in societies from 6000 BC. Though in the present days, government run and professionally run organisations are models to the rest of the world, family run businesses are here to stay ..

Great Indian business families have come and gone ..
This brief writeup is case study of a very successful family run business from the state of Kerala processing one of the oldest and and valuable items India has been famous for thousands of years and which has attracted travellers and traders from wide and far in search of this precious asset - spices. The Spice Route and Silk Route which connected India and China respectively to the rest of the world for the past four millennia and which made them prosperous and rich for thousands of years speak lots about the thriving spices and silk trade in the eastern hemisphere. This writeup is an attempt to link up with one of the oldest and prosperous trade which India has been known for thousands of years, spices.

Synthite Industries, a family run business from Kadayiruppu, Kolenchery, Kerala is the world leader in oleoresins and spice oils, controlling 30% of the global business in oleoresins.

Aju Jacob
Aju Jacob, Director, Synthite in (click here for the video of the ISB talk) where he speaks clearly speaks of the challenges of managing family run businesses. He is the son of CV Jacob, Chairman of Synthite, from Kolencherry. George Paul is the Vice Chairman of Synthite. Their family runs the INR 1800 crores Synthite Industries which controls 30% of global market in spice oils and oleoresins..

Aju, an executive alum of ISB, Hyderabad has hughlighted the challenges faced by family run businesses in this talk he gave at ISB recently. Aju's elder brother Viju, also from Rajagiri, is the Managing Director of Synthite. His articulation of problems, particularly from the viewpoint of a prosperous, educated, spiritual and emotionally well balanced family background has been perfect !! Sparks of humility, understanding and great leadership was visible in that speech.
Dr, Viju Jacob, Mg.Dir., Synthite.

From being an organisation working well for the past 47 years, there is great learning for the third generation in his family and for elders and youngsters of other business families planning transition of leadership and authority to the next generation..  The added lesson from this case study is how to work with the active and often militant  trade union leaders of Kerala. This case in plain high impact words provide simple thoughts very neatly put across to understand the pressures of managing family businesses, both during good and bad times. 

This earlier writeup of mine some time back throws light on Synthite Industries, what they do and how. This Kerala based co. controlling 30% of global market in spice oils and oleoresins supplies to global food processing industry majors across the world !!

References :

1. Baron, Josh, Why 20th century will belong to family run businesses, Harvard Business Review, March 2016.
2. Forbes, Top 25 largest family owned companies in the world, 2017.

George ..

PS : Aju is my classmate from Rajagiri HS Ernakulam during late 70s and a family friend too.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Will the bloodshed in the Indian e-commerce market end anytime soon ?

E-commerce (electronic commerce or EC) is the buying and selling of goods and services, or the transmitting of funds or data, over an electronic network, primarily the internet. These business transactions occur either as business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer or consumer-to-business. -, 2016.
Even though trading over the Internet is almost thirty years old, its popularity over the past ten years has been great and has seen many players enter this ludicrous market and disappear overnight. It has not been a bed of roses all the way.

Losses of E-commerce cos, INR crores  
                    2014-15             2015-16
Flipkart             2979                  5223
Amazon           1724                   3571
Snapdeal         1328                   2960

   Total             6031                  11,754, (Source Economic Times, January 20, 2017)

Why are Indian e-commerce cos bleeding heavily ? While all are upbeat about our great e-commerce companies, it is but a fact that all of them are bleeding heavily. While all the top three in 2014-15 made losses of approximately INR 6300 crores, 2015-16 saw them making still greater losses. In total about INR 11,600 crores among themselves.

Click here for my presentation in the class analysing the reasons behind it..

Major and minor Indian e-commerce players, at least 14 and many more ..
Even though we are upbeat about e-commerce companies in general, the real picture is very grim. How long can the top three e-commerce companies in India show a bold face and live with these losses. Amazon India may be able to survive for another three or four years of heavy losses, because of its rich US cousin, focusing on just consolidation in the Indian markets. 

It was a good discussion in the class today. One of the suggestion was to  stop the pretensions and get to play the game on the right basics without any pretensions. Customer acquisition and customer retention are two very tricky aspects in e-commerce where we find price-sensitive Indian streetsmart customers switching between e-commerce players at the drop of a hat.

The more competitive the ecosystem, the more casualties we can expect. Since it is accepted that Indian e-commerce market is the most populated with maximum number of entities vying for a piece of the pie, it will only do good for the industry in the long run. Just like the telecom market in the country presently being the most competitive in the world where the global majors like China mobile or Vodafone dare not enter and commit harakiri, the e-commerce market can also be expected to be the most competitive.

Since Alibaba, the $480 billion retailer from China and Amazon, $250 billion retailer giant from US are here to stay, e-commerce as a field is to stay, but needs a real cleanup and it will happen pretty soon. The companies cannot afford to bleed for long ! The Indian scene is pretty bad and at the same time we believe it holds the maximum promise in the long run.

Alibaba and Amazon, please stand by ! The bloodshed in the Indian market is on and shortly one can expect peace to return .. If  one succeeds in the Indian market, he/she can succeed anywhere in the world.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Budget Airlines - how they achieve cost advantage over other airlines ..

Last time I caught an early morning 5.30 am flight from Bangalore to Mumbai, I had to leave home by 3.30 AM to reach Devanahalli airport at 4.30 AM. Why so early in the morning ? Since Bangalore does not have a secondary airport, I had to board flights departing the airport at odd times to avail of low airline fares. It was okay considering that I was paying just a third of what I would have paid had I boarded an 8.00 AM flight to Mumbai.

What is this big noise about Budget Airlines and how are they able to offer low fares to the public ?

Airlines operation is an interesting and exciting area of study for an Operations Manager. The airlines recover the initial high capital by carrying out very smart focused manoeuvres. South West Airlines in US was the first airlines in the world to start the concept of Budget Airlines. They started the field of demand management or Yield Management as an area of study where the ticket prices on a route depend on the customer demand for flights in that route. The main objective of yield management is to boost demand by offering tickets at different rates (in different slabs) depending on the demand distribution to optimise the final returns or yields.

Airlines have also looked at other minor yet important and interesting cost cutting aspects. As Sarah Coles (3) says, it is about concentrating in 4 main areas of operations,
  • first using the same type of aircraft
  • secondly, a constant drive to push costs down
  • thirdly, ensuring a faster turnaround time at the airports and 
  • fourthly not selling anything other than seats ..
We shall present them in detail here (1,2) ..

Identifying the cost pain points and addressing them to reduce the costs is the first step. US and India based budget airlines offer tickets that are 20-30% less than traditional airlines, while Budget airlines in Europe offer tickets at 50% of traditional airlines. an 800 km journey could be completed by air in under 10 euro. It is interesting to find how European budget airlines succeed where US and Indian airlines have only partly succeeded.

This video is a great example of how budget airlines constantly innovate to keep their operating costs low. Click for the video ..

There are different aspects we need to look at and they are listed here.

Physical Infrastructure - The planes are mostly of one type. RyanAir has only Boeing 737 and EasyJet only Airbus A320 aircrafts. GoAir and Indigo in India work mostly with Airbus A320 in their fleet. This helps the airlines to reduce their maintenance expenses, keep low inventory stock of spare parts and less training for the staff.
Additionally, the fleet is relatively new, with an average age of less than 5 years. They are more efficient incurring less running expenses, partly offsetting their higher purchase costs. These young planes incur less maintenance costs and are up in the air almost 24x7, giving better returns to the airlines. Most of these planes do not have expensive and luxurious reclining seats reducing costs and maintenance expenses. No back pockets for these seats reduce the cleaning needed reducing the turnaround time after each flight.The gap between the seats is limited, enabling accomodation of more seats in the economy class. (click here for pictures of future seating configurations in budget airlines..)

Airports proximity to city centre and landing fees - Landing fees at airports are a major source of expense for airlines as they have to part with higher airport landing fees when they land at major city airports. To keep the costs low, budget airlines land in slightly distant secondary airports which charge low landing fees, away from the cities with good connectivity to the city centre. The budget airlines use major airports at odd times when landing fees are very low like early morning or late night flights.

Training for Employees - training is imparted to the employees on multiple tasks like ticket checking, cleaning, luggage checking etc. . Fewer employees carrying out multiple tasks eliminates need for excess staff, reducing costs. The duration of training is less with more emphasis on safety than on hospitality. Being a very young workforce, there is no unionisation resulting in employees ready to shift to distant airports at short notice.

Catering facility - the budget airlines do not offer any complementary food or drinks during the flight and these are chargeable. The main advantage of this is that it saves inflight time for attendants who can attend to more important tasks of the passengers. Wastage of food is avoided on the flight.

Passenger loading schedules - The turnaround time at the airports are generally less than 45 minutes as earlier routine tasks like loading food trays, cleaning of planes between stops etc are avoided. As passengers are given seating on First Come First Served basis, passengers generally tend to come early to get window seats, eliminating delay in flights. The self check-ins through automated machines or internet check-ins have accelerated the check-ins.

Flying route schedules - Most of the budget airlines take only direct booking, eliminating middle men and commissions.
In addition most of the conventional established airlines operate on a hub-spoke arrangement, where they tend to touch at their hub or base very often, increasing the flying times and expenses for the airlines. Budget airlines on the other hand, have a point-to-point model of operations wherein they do not return to their main hub on every leg of the flight and instead touch base at different cities as per schedule and demand before reaching base. They also do not book connection flights as this leads to unnecessary extra expenses to the airline if the flight is delayed or connecting flights are missed.

Profit margins - Budget airlines have been observed to have healthy profit margins often running to an average of about 14-15 % while traditional airlines have low profit margins of about 4 - 5 %, besides being burdened with aging planes and heavy maintenance expenses.

What is the future of budget airlines ?

As economies keep growing, there will be increased demand for airline traveling. Hence the demand for budget airlines is only going to increase in the coming days, along  with a healthy demand for conventional long distance airlines. Short haul flights can experience a pull towards lower costs. An innovative technology like Hyperloop can bring great disruption if proved to be successful. 

The Govt of India's UDAN, the Low Cost Regional Connectivity scheme to get the distant parts of the country reachable by air is taking off today 28 April from Delhi to Shimla. Under this scheme, initially 43 cities to increase to 72 cities with 128 routes across the country. These cities will be connected whereby the flying fare for a 500 km distance and a one hour flying time will be capped at Rs 2500.00. Viability Gap Funding (VGF) upto Rs 3000 per seat will be provided by the GoI to the airlines selected under this scheme. The airlines are Alliance Air, SpiceJet, Turbo Megha, Air Odisha and Air Deccan. They were awarded 128 routes under the scheme after a bidding process. With this scheme, more cities in India will be reachable by air promoting the industrial growth of these cities.

The UDAN Low cost flying model of GoI, though not driven by actual demand and cost cutting innovative measures will help spur demand and help India go ahead. 

References :

1. Nils Pratley, Anatomy of a flight,, 2003. Accessed April 2017
2. Wendover Productions, How budget Airlines work,, 2016, Last accessed April 2017.
3. Sarah Coles, Low cost Airlines - How they cut costs,, 2015, Last accessed  April 2017.

Compiled and written by George Easaw for classwork in Alliance University, Bangalore, India. Unauthorised use prohibited. Contact for permission.

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